America’s Next Top Inventor

Grad students Bill DeRusha, Josh Silverman and Jason Urton.
Susan Chaityn Lebovits
Grad students Bill DeRusha, Josh Silverman and Jason Urton.

Developing the next world-changing innovation in your lab? Fourteen teams of Brandeis scientists believe they are, and they recently pitched their ideas before a panel of industry experts in order to win part of a $50,000 grant to help commercialize their research.

Funded by the provost’s office, the university’s Virtual Incubator Sprout Grant Program attracted mixed teams of professors and graduate students and awarded grants to six teams. The competition was part of the Virtual Incubator program, established to nurture entrepreneurial Brandeis students and faculty through education, mentorship, networking and small seed grants that help move inventions from the lab to the marketplace.

“The competition was a huge success in terms of outreach and stimulating entrepreneurship on campus,” said Irene Abrams, associate provost for innovation, executive director of the Office of Technology Licensing, and the inventor of the Virtual Incubator.

In a five-minute presentation, postdoctoral fellow Jared Auclair nervously took center stage to describe his team’s research on potential compounds to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The team, which includes biochemistry/chemistry professors Greg Petsko and Dagmar Ringe and assistant professor of chemistry Jeffrey Agar, won $10,000 to advance research that might lead to licensing a therapeutic compound to a pharmaceutical company.

Another team of presenters took to the computer lab. Graduate students Bill DeRusha, Josh Silverman and Jason Urton presented Zen.do, a web-based interface that allows students and teachers to build a study guide automatically while taking notes.

“Our aim is to put an end to students sitting down to cram, replacing studying with casual, constant learning focused on long-term retention,” said Urton.

Visit www.brandeis.edu/otl/grants/incubator.html.

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